5 TIPS FOR STARTING THERAPY
As we all know, starting therapy can be a little unnerving. After all, its new and you have no idea what to expect, right?
It’s easy to allow that feeling to put you off seeking a counsellor, or start your self-healing journey, before you’ve even began!
I’m hoping that by reading these tips, it will provide you with a little reassurance and comfort into what to expect and how to prepare for your first session of therapy.
Don’t forget that therapy is designed to help!
So here we go:
1. Go with an open mind!
I can imagine that the first time you came into contact with what therapy looks like, was in a movie or tv show (Uh oh!). Often, the way that therapy is portrayed in these settings are far from what really goes on. As most of you know, real life situations don’t always resemble our favourite movie characters, so we can’t treat them the same way.
Disclaimer: your first session will be more of a ‘get to know me’ session and therefore may not present itself as being most helpful. However, the more your counsellor knows, the more they can work with. So just focus on being you!
2. Take advantage of consultations
Most counsellors offer a free brief telephone consultation prior to your first session. These phone calls offer a chance for you and the counsellor to get to know one another and ask any questions you may have. It’s important to remember that during this time, no real therapy should go down.
Useful tip: Now is the best time to ask the therapist questions about their process and how the structure of the sessions work, so you can decide if you would like to work with them. You might ask questions like:
How long do the therapy sessions last?
How much do you charge?
What’s your availability/working hours?
What generally happens in a session?
What type of therapy do you practice?
What qualifications do you have?
The counsellor, in return, will often use this time to understand why you are interested in seeking therapy and how their practice can assist you.
It’s completely understandable that even a short phone call poses some sort of nervous feeling, but remember that this is your first step in reaching your goal. You got this!
3. Don't be discouraged if you don't find the right counsellor on the first go!
Listen here, and listen good - it’s very easy to convince yourself that therapy ‘isn’t for you’ when you don’t have a great experience with a counsellor. But the simple truth is, that counsellor isn’t for you!
Look at it like this, when you’re completing a puzzle, you can’t force the wrong piece to fit - you spend time looking for the piece that fits perfectly so you can complete your picture.
So how do I know if that counsellor is right for me, you ask? Here’s a few things you might want to think about after your consultation or first session:
Did you feel listened to?
Did you feel safe and comfortable to share?
Did you feel respected?
Did you feel like they were being genuine?
Did you like their mannerisms towards you?
And when it comes to picking your counsellor.. Take your time and trust your gut!
4. Think about your therapy goals and communicate them
It’s a good idea to go into therapy with a brief idea of what you want to achieve. At first thought, it’s easy to think of something like ‘I want to feel better’ or ‘I just want to be happy’ but how do we get there? What does your happy look like? (<< Important question!)
And don’t worry, you’ll probably find that these goals change over time but having a framework is a good start!
If you’re still struggling - it’s okay that’s normal, here are some common goals a lot of people want to work on through therapy:
implement healthy coping mechanisms (for anxiety, depression, anger etc)
be able to regulate emotions
learn to live with loss
improve physical factors: sleep, food, exercise
If none of these apply to you, think about things you tend to struggle with on a daily basis and start there!
Communicating these goals with your counsellor is key. It allows them to develop an idea of how to work with you and in some cases, create a plan with you so that your progress is measurable. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
5. Give yourself credit for going!
Last but not least, give yourself a pat on the back, a gold star, a sneaky bite out of your favourite chocolate - you’ve taken the leap of faith, so congrats!
Celebrating every small win is an important part in the long game. Humans, humans, humans. We’re so quick to punish ourselves when we make a mistake or underperform, but accomplishing a small goal, we almost never celebrate with the same enthusiasm.
Remember this quote through your hard days, or your therapy sessions that feel a bit more difficult than the rest:
‘The doing is often more important than the outcome’ (Arthur Ashe - late professional tennis player).
The effort we put into our achievements and the journey, often teaches us more than the end goal.
Now, this is your journey of self-healing so grab the wheel and put your foot down!